In 1988, as a young adult, Mike Wright joined YouthBuilders, a year-long ministry team that traveled to churches throughout Ontario to work with their youth ministries. “I grew up outside the BIC Church and had never experienced the kind of love, conflict-resolution, accountability, inspiration, and challenge that I found with YouthBuilders,” he says. And it was this experience that helped lead Mike to the Brethren in Christ Church and, eventually, to the Centre for Student Leadership (Clarksburg, ON), where he and his wife, Melri, have lived and served as directors for the last six years.
The main purpose of the Centre for Student Leadership (CSL) is to provide ministry opportunities and training for young adults, especially those taking part in BIC programs like YouthBuilders. Mike, who also serves as associate for the Canadian Conference’s Student Ministry team, facilitates this by mentoring participants and providing special instruction on living in community during the team’s time together.
“Jesus lived in close community with His disciples, and His example is what motivates and inspires Melri and me to engage student teams in a 24/7 communal experience,” he states.
In addition to hosting young adults, Mike, Melri, and their two children welcome other groups to their home at the Centre throughout the year. Although living in constant community can be challenging, Mike says that the tension in the home-work situation has been minimal. “Having groups come to where we live to do retreats feels natural and normal to our family,” he says. His children look forward to meeting people who visit, and he and Melri have discovered unique ways to keep their marriage healthy: “We also hold each other accountable to both our marriage and our ministry, and we place a high value on daily contact and communication about joys and struggles.”
Community and accountability play a part in all of Mike’s roles at the Centre, but he notes that they are “experienced most fully and completely” with his fellow CSL team members.
Composed of three core couples and a few internss from across denominations, the team connects on a regular basis (sometimes daily) and meets for intense times of communal living throughout the year.
“These periods of communal living force us to open our lives up more and more, extending into areas of our life that most leave shadowed. We are open to challenging each other on areas of family, finances, future life decisions, and spiritual development,” Mike says. “This has encouraged me to open up areas of my life that I’ve always thought were the exclusive domain of my family. I am becoming more open with others about every area of my life so that we can interdependently share burdens, feedback, and support.”
And this, according to Mike, is what community is all about.